Kitakata, Fukushima, Japan.

Kitakata, Fukushima, Japan.

Kitakata. Water from the mountains flows down across the rice fields and into the city, in open canals between the buildings. Despite the snow, the sun kept the canals from freezing over, and the sound of trickling water was everywhere.

Kitakata, rice fields. The explosion in the nuclear power plant have made people very aware of their use of energy. People turn the heat down indoors – the unbearably hot summer days will soon be here anyway.

On the east coast, near the destroyed nuclear plant, three hours is a maximum stay. People might not be able to move back for another 30 years. The vegetation in the area is remarkably ancient, with trees up to 1000 years old. Where the tsunami cleared away the forest, you can now see all the way to the sea.

A street in Kitakata with the city's typical white kura storehouses.

Silk and cotton is still spun, dyed and woven in Kitakata. Freshly dyed "Japan Blue" cotton yarn is drying in a textile factory outside the neighbouring town of Aizu Wakamatzu.

In a textile workshop in Kitakata, one of the ladies explains how advanced Kimono patterns are made with complicated stencils and several layers of dye.

Mr. Watanabe, the owner of the joinery workshop where the kura was built, shows off one of his treasures.

The kura was part of an art project initiated by artist Yoshiko Maruyama, originally from Fukushima.
This is one of Maruyama's installations. The old kura where the exhibition was shown, was originally used as a storehouse for agricultural tools. Maruyama recreated that atmosphere with a new collection of old objects.

In the Sai-no-kami ceremony, heaps of straw and coloured paper objects are burned on a bonfire to secure good growth for next year's crops. Eventually the fire is used for a communal barbeque.

A traditional kura: heavy whitewashed walls gave a fireproof storehouse with stable inside conditions, suitable for storing food.

The kura under construction in Mr. Watanabe's workshop.

From the erection of the new kura – a storehouse for memories.

The new kura. The little building frame is dimensioned for three tatami mats. the walls are made from old sliding screens found in a loft, which were stripped of their paper. During the course of the exhibition, people filled the frames with slips of paper where they had written down their hopes for the future.

Several tea ceremonies were arranged in the kura.

Tea ceremony. A representative of the Fukushima Museum was certified to host the ceremony – dress, implements and movements are all very important. Visitors entered in groups to be served. The theme of the ceremonies and the conversations was "the future of Fukushima".

The new kura in Kitakata.

Following the presentation in Arkitektur N no. 4-2013 of Toyo Ito’s project Home-For-All in Rikuzentakata, Margrethe Aas tells the story of an art project in the Fukushima region, also aimed at helping local people to deal with the post-tsunami situation.

Together with artists Vigdis Haugtrø from Norway and Su Grierson from Scotland, Aas was invited by the Japanese artist Yoshiko Maruyama to propose a project for the small town of Kitakata, an agricultural area where people from Fukushima were forcibly moved after the disaster.

Reaching back into the region’s agricultural past, the artists reconstructed a small kura, a local storehouse, as a meeting place to share reflections and personal stories, acknowledging a traumatic experience that has become a shameful thing for many people. An architecture of restoration.


Project leader: Yoshiko Maruyama
Invited participants January-March 2013: Vigdis Haugtrø (N), Margrethe Aas (N), Su Grierson (GB)
Sponsors and supporters: Japan Foundation, IORI Club, Fukushima Museum

See the project blog at Facing North on Facebook.

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